Vancouver firm wants to upcycle plastic

The technology exists, the raw material is available and the location has been chosen — all that’s left for Jose Luis Gutierrez-Garcia to do is finance the installation of an “upcycling” machine that could convert up to 10 tonnes of plastic each month into usable crude oil.

Gutierrez-Garcia is the co-founder and project director of Upcycle the Gyres, a non-profit with a goal of cleaning the ocean of marine pollution. He said on Monday the technology is called plastic-to-oil “pyrolysis” — developed in Japan — and works by gasifying petroleum-based plastics before cooling them down for conversion back into crude.

Vancouver firm wants to upcycle plastic


The conversion rate is about one kilogram of plastic to create a litre of oil — at a generation cost of about 14 cents to 31 cents per litre.

“We’re proposing to use Japanese technology (Blest) … there’s a machine in Whitehorse working in collaboration with a recycling business, the Yukon College Cold Climate Innovation and the government,” Gutierrez-Garcia said.

“We’re proposing to replicate their success in a commercial scale.”

The plan is to obtain plastic materials from beach-cleaning organizations to have a constant supply of fuel.

One company Gutierrez-Garcia has reached out to is Recycling Alternative, which has a location on Terminal Avenue in Vancouver that Upcycle is eyeing as the place to install the plastic-to-fuel machine.

“We’ve got everything in place with regards to distribution channels, clients, space, it’s basically the money we need to bring the machine over,” he said.

“We’re looking at $500,000 to $1 million to set it up and operate it for the first year.”

Over the long term, the machine is expected to be self-sufficient. As part of the fundraising effort, the organization has proposed a “Clean Up the Ocean” concert in Stanley Park this summer — pending approval from the Park Board.

And that’s not it for Upcycle the Gyres — or UpGyres — Gutierrez-Garcia said the organization is also working to install a filtration system at the local sewage treatment stage to remove microbeeds and fibres from the water.

“(It’s) very different from collecting larger plastic from the beach or from illegal dumps. We’re developing the technology and we’re looking at how to literally filter them (beeds and fibres) out.”
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